A workshop on Management and Conservation of World Heritage Sites at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in Hiroshima in July illustrated the power of protecting spaces of cultural and natural uniqueness.
Do you remember the video game Pac-Man? Pac-Man busily eats up as many dots as possible. Don’t we humans tend to act quite similarly in regards to our environment, natural resources, ecosystem, wildlife and cultural phenomena? Pac-Man, oil drillers, hotel developers, tiger hunters and ethnic conflict initiators would be well advised to slow down. Another successful approach is to border endangered areas, monuments, and cultural traditions through invisible yet effective systems, agreements and regulations.
Both actions are crucial to keep man-made corrupting influences at bay and guard and respect the beauty and complexity of our natural environment and cultural diversity. UNITAR’s series on the Management and Conservation of World Heritage Sites focuses on the effective management of the world’s most precious natural and cultural treasures.
Specific regional, national and international laws, regulations and conservation instruments help to create protected areas, which enhances the opportunities for researching and learning from natural phenomena and the wisdoms imbedded in each and every culture on this planet. We from Heritage in Action had the privilege to attend this year’s workshop by UNITAR that focused on UNESCO’s new Preparing World Heritage Nominations manual and the related issues of management, decision-making and policy formulation. In relation to other types of protected areas, an inscription on the World Heritage List (that is if a site is of outstanding universal value) makes for only a small percentage of protected areas worldwide, but the principles for protection are generally the same.
Manuals, rules and policies may sound pretty theoretical and bureaucratic, but looking at the bigger picture and the results worldwide achieved thus far encouraged each participant to acknowledge precisely those procedures as best practice for safeguarding vanishing phenomena in the cultural and natural realm.
With 30 participants from 19 different nations the workshop in Hiroshima brought together a potpourri of enthusiastic, skilled and imaginative people working in the heritage field. We all aimed to return to our respective countries applying what we learned – starting processes that will confine and protect specific natural and cultural areas.
Hiroshima is home to one of three UNITAR offices and has two preserved cultural sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List:
(1) Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Atomic Bomb Dome) (inscribed 1996)
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) was the only structure left standing in the area where the first atomic bomb exploded on 6 August 1945. Through the efforts of many people, including those of the city of Hiroshima, it has been preserved in the same state as immediately after the bombing. Not only is it a stark and powerful symbol of the most destructive force ever created by humankind; it also expresses the hope for world peace and the ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons. (Source: UNESCO World Heritage Center)
(2) Itsukushima Shinto Shrine (inscribed 1996)
The island of Itsukushima, in the inland sea just outside of Hiroshima, has been a holy place of Shintoism since the earliest times. The first shrine buildings here were probably erected in the 6th century and the present shrine dates from the 12th century. The shrine was inscribed on the basis of its being a supreme example of this form of religious centre, setting traditional architecture of great artistic and technical merit against a dramatic natural background and thereby creating a work of art of incomparable physical beauty. (Source: UNESCO World Heritage Center)
Find here more information about UNITAR’s Cultural Heritage Training website